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Tom Carroll, left, Bill Forster, Doug Hjersjo and Paul Haugland were all honored for their years of service to the Wildcat football program at halftime of the Cats' final home game of the season against Superior Oct. 16 at Ramer Field. Hjersjo will receive another accolade when he is inducted into the Wisconsin Football Coaches Hall of Fame March 27 in Madison. Dan Wunrow photo

Hjersjo gets call from WFCA Hall of Fame

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Tom Carroll and Doug Hjersjo have a lot more in common than just football.

The two were classmates and fraternity brothers at UW-River Falls in the 1960s before, as Carroll said: "He went on his way and I went on mine."

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Hjersjo went to teach and coach at Laconia High School in Rosendale, while Carroll was a teacher and coach at Mondovi and Grantsburg before moving back to River Falls in 1976. Carroll became the Wildcats' head football coach in 1978, and two years later, Hjersjo moved back to River Falls to teach social studies at the high school and joined Carroll's coaching staff as an assistant.

"It's been a joy to know him, not only as a football coach but as a good friend," Carroll said about Hjersjo. "We go back a long way and our families are very close. It's been a tremendous experience for me."

Today, Hjersjo is preparing to join his fraternity buddy in the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Hjersjo will be one of 20 new members, and the only assistant coach, inducted at the WFCA Hall of Fame banquet March 27, 2010, at the Marriott West in Middleton.

Carroll, the Wildcats' head football coach from 1978-1989, was inducted into the WFCA Hall of Fame in 2001.

"It is a humbling experience, to be honest," Hjersjo said about the honor. "To be named to a hall of fame in a profession that you have so much respect for, I feel very, very humbled."

Hjersjo just completed his 30th year as an assistant at River Falls, working not only for Carroll but his successor, Bill Forster and current head coach John Bennett. He said all three men share a noble trait.

"One of the things about working with all three head coaches, it's not just about success on the football field, but success in life," he said. "To see what a player goes on to do in life, and the success he has, it's really rewarding. That's what you go into education for, and athletic programs are an extension of education."

Bennett said Hjersjo has always been in coaching for all the right reasons.

"He's all about the players," he said. "He's made a tremendous difference in young men's lives over the years. This is a well-deserved honor."

Hjersjo was a head coach at Laconia for five years before coming to River Falls. But he said he never felt compelled to apply for the Wildcats' head coaching job, preferring to concentrate on teaching offensive line skills and working with kids one-on-one.

"The best part is working with the kids," he said. "That's why I went into education, to help them grow and mature. That's also the best part of coaching. And quite honestly I can say there's no better place I could have found to do that than River Falls."

Carroll said Hjersjo's loyalty is one of his most admirable qualities.

"Not just to me, but to all three head coaches," Carroll said. "He's been tremendously loyal to whoever he's worked with. He's willing to do whatever it takes to make the program better."

Hjersjo's love of sports doesn't end with football. He's also a sanctioned track and field official and works the clock and announces at Wildcat basketball games and wrestling matches.

"I very much enjoy sports," he said. "Sports are my pastime, my hobby. High school sports in particular; young people playing for the enjoyment of the experience and the fun of the competition. I enjoy watching them. Working the clock and being a track official are ways I can see that up close."

River Falls' activities director Rollie Hall said Hjersjo's contributions to other sports hasn't gone unnoticed.

"He's done a lot of things here," Hall said. "You can't find a better person with kids than Doug."

Hjersjo said there have been many highlights in his 30 years in River Falls, from winning conference championships to playoff games to recent close wins over archrival Hudson. But he said the best part has simply been working with kids.

"The kids have been great," he said. "They are very coachable and work hard. They look at the idea of, what's important as a team? Also, I had the opportunity to coach my son-in-law, Sam Johnson, for two years on varsity. And worked with some great people, both the head coaches and the other assistant coaches. They all have goals in the kids' best interests. They're always the top priorities."

In addition to Carroll, other members of the WFCA Hall of Fame with River Falls' ties include former UW-RF head coach Mike Farley (1994), former Falcon assistant Ted Thompson (2003), former UW-RF athletic director Don Page (2004) and current Falcon coach John O'Grady (2008). Hjersjo said he's honored to join that list.

"It's wonderful," he said. "It's humbling to be associated with people who have had so much success. And I'm honored because the other coaches are the ones that voted me in."

Tickets for the WFCA Hall of Fame banquet cost $45 each and can be purchased at the high school by contacting Hall at either 425-1830, ext. 1111, or e-mailing rollie.hall@rfsd.k12.wi.us.

A reception will be held from 4:30-5:30 p.m. with dinner at 5:30 p.m. at the Marriott West in Middleton.

At the present time, the WFCA Hall of Fame is located in the Atrium at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.

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